Arches' java gets 'CR' thumbs up

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McDonald's has the best coffee for the money, beating out Starbucks, Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts, according to a surprising Consumer Reports study. But rivals might be quick to reject the findings as the magazine's March issue lands in subscribers' mailboxes.

According to the magazine's publisher, the nonprofit Consumers Union, Consumer Reports relied on an unnamed lead taster trained in tasting coffee and an undisclosed group of other tasters who verified and "seconded" the expert's assessment of medium cups of plain black coffee from four of the nation's most popular coffee marketers.

McDonald's $1.35 Premium Roast Coffee-the least expensive of the brews-prevailed as a "moderately strong coffee with no flaws." Starbucks' drip tasted "burnt and bitter," while Burger King's BK Joe tasted like "sour hot water with an unusual hint of chocolate." Last but not least (its $1.65 price was the highest), Dunkin' Donuts coffee's "weak, watery taste did not match its steep price."

Of course, each brand offered its own measure of quality. "Choosing a brand of coffee is a personal decision, as taste is subjective," Starbucks said. Dunkin' Donuts touted its plaudits from AOL readers but said, "We are not in the business of arguing taste."

"If you're using experts, you don't need a large population," said Gail Vance Civille, president of Sensory Spectrum and a former coffee taster. "But ... some experts are more expert than others."

Even McDonald's seemed careful to avoid appearing too boastful. "Since we introduced our Premium Roast Coffee in early 2006, we've received overwhelmingly positive feedback," a spokeswoman said. It has been running a "Free Coffee Mondays" promo in some parts of the country, and free tastes good no matter where you live.
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